GAME OVERVIEW ::
By hilow >>
- The Falcons run man coverage at a top 10 rate in the league and just had A.J. Terrell line up opposite Calvin Ridley on 79 percent of their snaps last week.
- Nico Collins ranks third in fantasy points per route run (per PFF, 1.13) and carries the top overall receiving grade against man coverage (per PFF).
- Tank Dell ranks sixth in fantasy points per route run against man coverage (per PFF).
- C.J. Stroud has averaged more than 300 pass yards per game and has thrown six touchdowns this season, five of which have gone to Collins or Dell.
- The Texans face the third-highest neutral rush rate against this season and the Falcons sport the league’s highest rush rate over expectation (RROE).
- After starting the season in a near-even timeshare with Tyler Allgeier, Bijan Robinson has garnered snap rates of 72 percent, 81 percent, and 76 percent over the previous three games, handling 62.8 percent of the team’s running back opportunities during that timeframe.
HOW HOUSTON WILL TRY TO WIN ::
The Texans have been one of the more pleasant-surprise offenses in the league through the first month of play. I would attribute most of that success to offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik and Stroud, each of whom have been a breath of fresh air. Slowik hails from the Kyle Shanahan coaching tree after serving under the San Francisco head coach for six seasons prior to his hiring in Houston. Now, consider the fact this team has scored 24.0 points per game through four weeks (15th) on the backdrop of it missing four of its starting offensive linemen with a rookie quarterback and it seems that much more impressive. The Texans have played at pace (fifth-ranked 27.1 plays per second) with a pass-balanced attack (18th-ranked pass rate over expectation) and have rattled off consecutive wins over the Jaguars and Steelers while scoring 67 points during that run. Their 38.0 pass attempts per game ranks fifth in the league, which makes sense considering the relative inefficiencies of their run game thus far.
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Dameon Pierce leads a backfield that has transitioned to more of a 1-2 punch after starting the season as a three-headed monster during the team’s first two games. Pierce has accounted for 66.4 percent of the team’s available backfield opportunities but has struggled to a 2.8 true yards per carry and just 3.5 yards per touch, which again makes sense considering the injuries to the team’s offensive line. Left tackle Laremy Tunsil, right guard Shaq Mason, and left guard Josh Jones all got in a limited session on Wednesday after either missing extended time or getting banged up in Week 4. The transition to a dual-back backfield between Pierce and change-of-pace back Devin Singletary has come at the expense of journeyman Mike Boone, the latter whom has played just eight total offensive snaps in the two games since returning from an injury that forced him to miss the team’s Week 2 loss to the Colts. Slowik stated that the team didn’t intend to be so pass-heavy during the first two games of the season, which he deemed more necessity than plan due to the ineffective rushing attack and injuries up front. During their two-game win streak, Stroud has attempted 60 passes compared to 55 team running back carries, which backs up the assertion of a more pass-balanced approach that was brought up above. The matchup on the ground is not ideal against a Falcons team holding opposing backfields to just 3.9 yards per attempt and the efficiency of the run game has been lacking, but Slowik should continue to strive for balance in neutral-to-positive game environments. Finally, the Texans see the highest rate of eight or more defenders in the box on running back carries this season.
The true breakout from this team has come through the air, with Stroud and Slowik combining to look more than capable in their first taste of NFL action. The layered route concepts introduced by Slowik and the spread nature of the offense have led to the second-highest cushion amongst the four primary pass-catchers, behind only the Washington Commanders. As in, Slowik is actively designing an offense to get his playmakers the ball in space. Collins and Dell are in the midst of true breakout seasons, with Collins holding elite underlying metrics in YAC (195, first), yards per reception (19.5, third), yards per route run (3.57, fourth), juke rate (40.9 percent, first), and a solid 12.0 aDOT, and Dell carrying 2.32 YPRR (18th), 16.7 YPR (15th), and a solid 12.3 aDOT (33rd). Stroud currently ranks 12th in intended air yards per pass attempt, ninth in completed air yards per completion, fourth in total pass yards, and sixth in total intended air yards through four games.
The offense began the season operating from an 11-personnel base with tight end Dalton Schultz a near-every-down tight end but has since transitioned to extreme levels of 12-personnel usage during the previous two weeks. The matchup through the air is a difficult one against a Falcons defense built on versatility. Last week, Terrell shadowed Ridley on 79 percent of the offensive snaps, which allowed the Atlanta defense to play more man coverage than we’ve seen to this point in the season. Even so, the Falcons carry top 10 rates of man coverage into Week 5. Collins currently ranks third in fantasy points per route run (per PFF, 1.13) and carries the top overall receiving grade against man coverage (per PFF), while Dell ranks sixth in fantasy points per route run against man coverage (per PFF). Finally, Stroud has thrown six touchdowns this season, five of which have gone to either Collins or Dell.